A group of Denmark Technical College supporters have sued South Carolina in an attempt to stop efforts to close the school.
The supporters say the community depends on Denmark Tech, but South Carolina hasn’t supported the only state-supported historically black technical college the way it should.
A complaint filed in Bamberg County claims the state’s actions imperil “a one-of-a-kind historically black technical college that has remained in existence since 1949. Once DTC’s doors close and its assets surrendered – as the illegal Closure Bill purports to mandate – the bell cannot be un-rung.”
Closing the school will hurt existing students and the community, the complaint says. It claims 374 people will lose their jobs.
The lawsuit comes as lawmakers continue crafting next year’s budget. The House version of the budget contains a proviso that would shut down Denmark Tech temporarily and reopen it as an area trade school. The Senate version of the budget is still being developed.
The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the DTC Foundation, DTC National Alumni Association and others against the state and the S.C. Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education. A state Tech Board spokesperson could not be reached late Wednesday.
The lawsuit claims the college has received an “unconstitutional and unlawful lack of proper funding.”
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“According to the most recent data available, the State funds just 27.9% of the amount needed to support the educational and general (“E&G”) operating needs of South Carolina’s technical colleges. Even at such a low percentage, the State has historically allocated even less funds to DTC,” the complaint claims.
In addition, the complaint claims that while other local governments help fund the technical colleges in their areas, Denmark Tech gets virtually no funding from Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties.
For instance, DTC has received $38,100 from the counties it serves over the past five years. Greenville Technical College got $59 million during the same period.
The complaint claims the state fails to take the disparity in local funding into account in its funding of technical colleges.
Meanwhile, the complaint says “evidence suggests Defendants have reduced funding to DTC because it sought out and obtained federal grants as a historically black college.” The lawsuit says that’s against federal law if it’s true.
--- This story has been updated.